Why Are Americans So Fat?

Too muchDo you have a few pounds and maybe an inch or two that you would rather not have? If so, you aren’t alone. Recent studies claim that over 60% of Americans are overweight or obese.

I know I have carried around extra weight for a number of years. Am I to blame? After all, no one else controls what I put in my mouth (or do they?). I control how much I move around and how many calories I burn (or do I).

Being fat is a relatively new phenomenon.

When I was a kid in the 1950’s, most folks weren’t overweight. Sure, there were some here and there, but not everywhere you looked!

According to WebMd Is Fat the New Normal

“The rate of obesity has climbed dramatically in the past 20 years: A third of adults are obese today, compared to 23% in the late 1980s.”

I can remember others in the world calling Americas fat way before the 1980’s though. It kind of offended me at the time, but how true it is.

Being fat seems endemic.

With only around 40% of the US population of near normal weight, can all the blame for putting on the pounds lie with each of us individually? Many believe there are societal and environmental causes that contribute to our propensity to gain weight and keep it on.

Societal and environmental causes of weight gain.

We have lost opportunities and inclinations to move about.

Most of us don’t have to walk anywhere. Sometimes we choose to walk, but we no longer need to do so as a means of transportation for the most part. We wake up, stroll to the kitchen, sit in a chair, hop in the car to drive to work, sit in a chair at the office all day, go to lunch with the gang and sit in a chair, hop in the car to drive home, then sit in a chair to watch TV.

We have to make a special effort to exercise, even sometimes spending money to do so.

We are bombarded with images of luscious looking food.

It seems that every commercial or ad or billboard shows us wonderful looking food – and it is always available quickly and easily. It is just a good thing that we don’t have aromas wafting from our sets yet.

Families don’t/can’t take time to cook at home from scratch.

With the advancing numbers of two income families, often there isn’t anyone at home to start the meal. Schedules are so full between 2 working parents and the every increasing business of their children that families look for quick and easy ways to get fed – using calorie filled prepared food instead of basic ingredients or just punting and eating out.

In the article, Two-paycheck couples are quickly becoming the norm a study by the Center for American Progress documents the number of families with no stay-at-home parent:

“In 2010, among families with children,” the study [by the Center for American Progress] notes, “nearly half (44.8 percent) were headed by two working parents and another one in four (26.1 percent) were headed by a single parent. As a result, fewer than one in three (28.7 percent) children now have a stay-at-home parent, compared to more than half (52.6 percent) in 1975, only a generation ago.”

We don’t feel fat when everyone around us is fatter.

Do you remember when a ladies size 16 was the biggest size available? Now we have Omar the tentmaker sizes available in every clothing store.

If you are around overweight people, you come to think of that as normal and don’t worry about your own few extra pounds! Being fat is OK.

What was different back in the 1950’s?

We moved!

We walked to work and school, we played and worked outside, only a few had a television set. Not too many of us had riding lawn mowers. We painted our own homes, washed our own dishes, hung our clothes on the line to dry, walked to the neighbors house to visit, rode our bikes and more.

Most families only had one car. Those of us not using the car either walked or rode our bikes or hoofed it to the bus stop to get somewhere.

Moving wasn’t a time added activity, we had to move to get where we wanted to go and get done what needed to be done.

We ate basic meals at home.

Mom was a stay-at-home Mom. She cooked a meat and a couple of vegetables and called it dinner. Often there was no dessert.

We didn’t use a lot of prepared snack foods.

In our house, and I assume many in America, snacks were much different in the 1950’s. We had fruit or homemade foods. There weren’t store bought cookies, chips, crackers, jellos, puddings and more available in the home for snacking. In fact, we seldom actually had snacks. We waited until there was a meal.

We drank water and tea.

We didn’t drink scores of soft drinks, energy drinks and etc, when we were thirsty, we had milk or water.  If we had company, Mom made iced tea.

We didn’t eat out much.

There weren’t many fast food restaurants and most of us ate most of our meals at home, because restaurant food was only for very special occasions.

Being fat was not condoned.

Fat folks were sort of harassed – being called ‘fatty’, getting stared at in a crowd. Some folks even held their noses and said ‘phew’ (fat people can sweat up a storm when there is no AC).

Who or What do you think is responsible for the rise in obesity in American and around the globe?


Why Are Americans So Fat? — 26 Comments

  1. I think there are a lot of factors that go into the expanding American waistline – one is just the ginormous food portions that we get when we dine out. It makes it look like we’re getting a great deal, but we really don’t need to eat that much. We’ve lost all perspective on what a “normal” food portion looks like!

  2. Did our government subsidize the sugar industry in the 50s like they do today? I really don’t know.

    And about the two paycheck thing, the average household makes more now than their parents did, but men make less than their fathers did, which is why so many households have to have 2 incomes. Not entirely relevant, but I thought interesting.

    We really do need to make our health more of a priority in this country, though.

  3. My neighbor pays a lawn service to cut his grass so he has time to go to the (expensive) gym to exercise. Go figure!

  4. I noticed today that a particular work dress was a little tighter in the bottom and had the sudden realization that I had gained some weight. I’m not one of those who will claim that a dress shrank. I moved too close to work and no longer walk to the office or get anywhere close to 10,000 steps. Must make changes…

  5. One reason Americans are so fat is that the government authorities who define “healthy” diets are from the corporate food industry. What do you think the chances are of, to give one example, the government recommending that adults replace cow’s milk with plant-based ‘milks’ when the dairy industry plays a key role in defining a healthy diet? The food pyramid is more about food industry players dividing up Americans’ food dollar than it is about Americans’ health.

    If you really, really get educated about nutrition, you’ll learn the government-recommended diet is a prescription for chronic disease, including obesity.

  6. Don’t worry, Americans, you’re not alone! I’ve noticed Europeans around me becoming fat too over the past years. It’s a worrisome trend that’s really hard to stop.

    In general, being overweight is your own fault: you eat too much, you eat unhealthy food, you snack to much in between meals, you don’t move around as much, etc. Just count for yourself how many hours you spend sitting down every day? You’ll be amazed!

    That’s why I walk and bike everywhere, try to limit my food intake go for a regular run! It’s not always fun, but being fit and healthy is definitely worth it.

  7. Your section about the 1950s explains everything. It used to be so different. Americans have became fat slobs, especially compared to the rest of the world. I recently read that, in the United States, the skinniest state today would have been the fatest state just a few years ago. That’s based on average BMI for the state. That’s sad!

  8. This topic always interests me. I recently read a book called “No Sugar for a Year” and it explained how sugar is in EVERYTHING we buy to eat. Trying to actually shop for foods with no sugar is a challenge but so rewarding.

    I know of two people who jumped at this challenge by cutting out about 90% of the sugar they eat (this includes ALL sugar, not just sweets) and they lost 5 and 7 lbs. in the first week. What!? Amazing!

    As you mentioned, Marie, only we control what we put in our mouths (period). I guess we just have to ask ourselves what the value of each food item we eat is to our overall health and wellness in order to maintain a healthy eating lifestyle.

      • Yeah, you are right. Society doesn’t seem to help much here in the States.

        I recently started watching a T.V. program aired in Ireland called ‘Operation Transformation’ where overweight people change their lifestyle in order to lose weight.

        This program is so popular that it is changing the entire country! Schools are incorporating more exercise and nutrition, people in workplaces are banning together to walk at lunch, whole communities are coming out of their caves and walking/running, etc. together. It’s truly amazing…Perhaps one day this will catch on here in the States, too. Fingers crossed!

        • Although those things can help, I almost think that we as a culture/society need to change our lifestyle to be more ‘thin friendly’. I think we are starting to do so with focus on things like a neighborhoods walk-ability, ability to put bikes on buses and etc.

  9. Based on this comparison, I think I still live in the ’50’s! Lifestyle is definitely a huge component of weight gain or loss. The car and long commutes have definitely added to the obesity epidemic. Something in our society needs to shift (or people have to make some very conscious decisions) to reverse this trend.

  10. These are excellent points! I think there are so many factors of our current lifestyle impacting our weight. I’m currently writing a book about this very subject!

  11. I’m not thrilled with the government subsidies of corn that have made high fructose corn syrup a part of everything, but at the end of the day, no one is forcing anyone to buy that crap. If we didn’t buy it, the business would fail. People like to point fingers and make excuses about things like their weight and health, but accepting personal responsibility is much more powerful.

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